In recent months, NATO forces have doubled down on their stand-off with Russia, with Ukraine at the epicenter. Massive military exercises are roaring ahead in Eastern Europe which only seem to be making the situation more tense.
The escalations kicked off in May with the colossal DEFENDER Europe drills. That show of firepower saw 28,000 troops deployed across the continent.
Now, months later, a new row has been ignited after a British warship, the HMS Defender, crossed the border into Crimean waters in the Black Sea.
This was in addition to a similarly fractious exchange between the Dutch Navy and Russian fighter jets in the same area, off the coast of both Russia and Ukraine.
Military support for Kiev has become a mainstay of US foreign aid policy to the tune of over one billion dollars since 2014. Washington has consistently set a goal to fund the Ukrainian Armed Forces with a view to bringing them in line with NATO standards.
Since 2014, the US regime has delivered around $2.7 billion in aid to Ukraine, according to USAID data. A significant portion of the total amount, approximately $1.3 billion or 47%, was handed out by the Department of Defense (DOD).
USAID lists total aid for 2020 as only partially reported, and very little data is available for Fiscal Year 2021. That said, in March 2021, the DOD announced a $125 million defense package for Kiev, followed by another $150 million announced in June.
One avenue of DOD aid to the country is so-called Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, which is a program that provides government funds to nations for use in the US military-industrial complex. Specifically, the funds are used to purchase “US defense articles and war-training.”
The initiative provides the country’s armed forces with lethal assistance such as “anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition,” as well as non-lethal intelligence support.
The stated long-term objective of US military and security assistance to Ukraine is to prepare it for membership in NATO. However, in reality, the country has taken almost no significant steps towards joining the bloc in the last several years.
Calls from senior officials in Kiev to pave the way for it to sign up appear to have fallen on deaf ears in Washington, with a number of other member states understood to have serious reservations about the lopsided prospect.
That, however, hasn’t stopped American government officials using NATO membership as a pretext to send cash to Ukraine, in the hopes of keeping it firmly within the US sphere of influence. While the country might not be part of the club anytime soon, it is a convenient proxy in hostilities from the USA against Russia.
Following the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva in June, the Russian president said he had reached an agreement with President Biden on implementing the Minsk protocols, which have been hailed as a roadmap for ending fighting in Donbass.
The Minsk protocols were signed by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well as delegations from the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. France, Germany, and Russia also put their signatures to the pact.
Since 2016, the military assistance provided to Ukraine under Zelensky has seemingly emboldened Kiev to set aside its commitment to the Minsk protocols, feeling confident in the defense safety net and stream of military financing provided by the USA.
Russia previously held large-scale military exercises near the Ukrainian border in April, in what was interpreted as a signal to Kiev that a resolution by military force is out of the question.
As for the aid itself, the total amount of support which the US has provided to Ukraine is undoubtedly a significant sum, but ultimately pales in comparison to the cash Washington can find for its main foreign policy priorities.
In 2011 alone, the American taxpayer provided around $11 billion to the lost mission in Afghanistan. Now, given the US is withdrawing from the Afghan theater, Ukraine is likely to get an even greater share of that spending.
Given tensions between Moscow and Washington remain at all-time highs, few politicians will bat an eye at the prospect of sending more and more cash to that troubled corner of the world.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2021.